New Documentary about Car-Free Visionary Could Earn You a New Bicycle

| 10/3/2010 9:26:58 AM

PaulGoodmanTruth be told, I had no earthly idea who Paul Goodman was.

So, when Jonathan Lee first contacted us at the Alliance for Biking & Walking, it was the title of his upcoming documentary, Paul Goodman Changed My Life, that made me curious.

With just a few clicks on the internet, I soon discovered this Goodman guy was a car-free visionary. A philosopher, author and poet, Goodman proposed banning private automobiles from Manhattan way back in 1961. “Important and immediate are the relief of tension, noise, and anxiety; purifying the air of fumes and smog; alleviating the crowding of pedestrians; providing safety for children,” Goodman wrote in his proposal published in Dissent magazine. “Subsequently, and not less importantly, we gain the opportunity of diversifying the gridiron, beautifying the city, and designing a more integrated community life.”

For those of us who consider ourselves part of the bicycle and pedestrian advocacy movement his arguments sound familiar. But consider the time.

Goodman’s “Banning Cars from Manhattan” was before Rachel Carson published Silent Spring or activists rallied for the first Earth Day. It came a full decade before local bicycle advocates coalesced into New York’s Transportation Alternatives. It was a good half-century before Mayor Michael Bloomberg first proposed charging motorists to drive into the heart of the city — and the concept was still so controversial it couldn’t get past the city council.

So I quickly came to an obvious conclusion. If the bicycle and pedestrian movement has a family tree, Goodman is weaved into our roots. But, at least to me, he was a long-lost relative.

11/14/2010 5:29:10 PM

Never had a car, never learned to drive. Had bikes for a while Now I walk and take the bus

10/7/2010 2:53:55 AM

I certainly don't want this comment to sound trite, but I found it a bit interesting that the person who wanted to ban automobiles from Manhattan, to help with " ... purifying the air of fumes and smog ..." was pictured smoking a pipe. I know his efforts were back in 1961, when we knew far less about the effects of smoking, but it just seemed a bit odd to me.

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